On May 31, Teens Against Tobacco Use volunteers will pick up cigarette butts in downtown Juneau in support of World No Tobacco Day. World No Tobacco Day was created in 1987 by the World Health Organization to draw global attention to the worldwide tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.
Cigarette butt litter is only one of the many ugly side effects of tobacco use. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and exposure to secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of death. Worldwide, tobacco use is the second major cause of death, killing one person every six seconds, about 5 million deaths each year.
Although smoking rates have decreased in high-income parts of the world in recent years, smoking rates are climbing in low- and middle-income regions which are home to 80 percent of the world's smokers. Federal and state regulations have limited tobacco marketing and promotion in the United States, but there is a lack of similar regulations in much of the rest of the world, including China, India and Southeast Asia. More than 90 percent of the world's population is without protection from tobacco industry marketing techniques, including tactics that target youth.
In addition, tobacco prevention measures that have proven effective in high-income parts of the world are practically non-existent in the rest of the world. Only 2 percent of the world's population lives in countries with comprehensive smoke-free laws. Only nine countries have services for people who wish to quit using tobacco.
However, action is being taken on international level to address the scourge of tobacco. In 2003, the U.S. government and the World Health Organization helped negotiate the international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Their global goals include enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and promotion, protecting people from secondhand smoke, warning about the dangers of tobacco use and offering people help to quit tobacco use.
Recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Microsoft Corporation co-founder Bill Gates invested $500 million to support programs and policies in developing countries to address the devastating effects of increased tobacco use.
Quitting tobacco can be hard, and usually takes more than one attempt. Don't quit quitting. There are more cessation resources than ever including newer nicotine replacement therapies and anti-craving medications.
Juneauites who wish to quit smoking or chewing tobacco have several options. The Alaska Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT NOW) is a free, confidential tobacco cessation program that offers a two-month free supply of nicotine patches, gum or lozenges as well as trained tobacco cessation professionals available for one-on-one counseling. Bartlett Regional Hospital offers the "Let's Quit" program, a seven-week tobacco cessation group. Call 796-8920 for more information. SEARHC beneficiaries can call 364-4440 for free one-on-one counseling, nicotine replacement products, and anti-craving medications. Nicotine Anonymous is a 12-step program that meets Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at 211 Fourth St., Suite 106, or call 463-3755 for more information. There are also numerous online resources for helping people stop using tobacco such as www.becomeanex.org.
endy Hamilton is the tobacco program manager with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.